Christine Frederick, Consumer Celebrity

Christine Frederick was consulting household editor of the Ladies' Home Journal and Home Economics editor of the Butterick Publishing Company magazine The Designer, where she conducted the Home Management Department. One of the more intriguing figures of the age, she founded and directed the Applecroft Home Experiment Station (at her Greenlawn, Long Island home), in whose kitchen step-saving food preparation was tested, and whose laboratory investigated 1,800 different products, from household appliances to food stuffs.

In advancing the field of household efficiency, Mrs. Frederick, as she liked to be called, can be thought of as having "domesticated" the scientific efficiency and management studies that Frederick W. Taylor conducted in the industrial realm. (INTRO NOTE Taylorism) Frederick was the author in 1912 of The New Housekeeping: Efficiency Studies in Home Management (not included in this collection), whose second chapter bore the Tayloresque title "Applying 'Standard Practice' and 'Motion Study' to Household Tasks." Then in 1915 came her correspondence course, Household Engineering: Scientific Management in the Home (not included in this collection), in the dedication to which she tips her hat to "the gospel of home efficiency." (The phrase gives an indication of the age's tendency to see matters material and spiritual as interconnected. (INTRO NOTE Spirituality)) Her magnum opus, Selling Mrs. Consumer (1929), included in our collection, which is an indispensable source of information regarding what consumers cared about and how they could be appealed to, is dedicated to Herbert Hoover. (INTRO NOTE The Home)

Selling Mrs. Consumer was published by the Business Bourse, of which Christine Frederick's husband, J. George Frederick, was president. A box ad for the Business Bourse in the September 8, 1926 issue of the trade journal Advertising and Selling (not in the collection) noted that the publishing house specialized in surveys, "offering seventeen years of experience," and "immense, unequalled files of data on 487 industries; personal guidance of the pioneer and leader in Commercial Research -- J. George Frederick."

The Fredericks were among those who customized Taylor's principles to fit the later decade, advocating, for example, the distinctly untayloresque concept of stylistic obsolescence, that accelerated turnover of style which was intended to make consumers into perpetual purchasers, thus preventing the market from backing up and becoming "saturated" with the endless flow of new goods that the mass production economy was compelled to turn out in order to keep going. (INTRO NOTE Retailing) Leslie Marchand notes about the Fredericks in Advertising the American Dream: "Evangelists of the new ideology . . . [they] coined the phrases 'progressive obsolescence' and 'creative waste' to inspire a reappraisal of persisting negative connotations" of the concept of planned obsolescence (p. 156). Frederick gave these redefinitions high visibility in Selling Mrs. Consumer.

Christine Frederick achieved a kind of celebrity status, promoting specific products through endorsements for which she was paid. The Coolidge-Consumerism collection contains Mrs. Frederick's You and Your Laundry (1922), published by the Hurley Machine Co., an advertising pamphlet for Hurley washing machines that represents itself as a consumer education booklet.

Midas Gold. A Study of Family Incomes, "Overselling" and Time-Payments as a Broadener of Markets (1925), published by the Butterick Publishing Company, for which in one way or another Frederick did a fair amount of work, begins with a her introductory essay in favor of consumer credit. (DETAIL NOTE Butterick) (A portrait photograph of Mrs. Frederick appears on p. 85 of Midas Gold.)


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